There’s a lot of open talk now about the different types of toxicity people can experience within relationships. It used to be that domestic violence was the only focus, that as long as you weren’t getting hit or beaten up, things weren’t really that bad. Unfortunately, the emotional impact of non-physical abuse was disregarded and wildly underestimated by those experiencing it and the professionals dealing with it. Now, we’re learning that all types of abuse can be detrimental to its victims.
What we’re going to discuss here, is Gaslighting and some of the key signs to watch out for.
present participle: gaslighting
- manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.
“in the first episode, Karen Valentine is being gaslighted by her husband”
A very common experience of men and women who are victims of gaslighting is to have the validity of their responses denied. It presents itself as being told that their reactions don’t fit the situation at hand and should be altered, regardless of the emotions behind them. For example, you expect your partner home by 6pm and they arrive at 3am, with no explanation. Although understandably worried and upset, you’ll be made to feel that you’re controlling, acting crazy or simply too hormonal. You may even be mocked or chastised for getting upset over nothing.
On the rare occasion, instances like this are frustrating. As a recurring motif, however, and possibly in multiple areas of your relationship, it’s actually extremely unhealthy. It can mean a gradual erosion of your natural instincts, lead to self-doubt and lower levels of self-esteem.
“You’re wrong, I’m right”
As well as being made to feel that you have unbalanced responses to specific life challenges, someone who’s gaslighting you can make you feel that your general view of life is wrong. This can be damaging to your trust in your own perspective and even your own memory. Examples are basic mind games, such as telling you a room is clean when you can clearly see it’s dirty or reminding you of entire conversations that you don’t remember or believe actually took place.
People who gaslight will all have individual agendas, but ultimately it’s about controlling a situation so it best serves their own goals. The goal might be to have a quiet life, or to maintain an intact ego.
If you begin to question things that are quite obviously staring you in the face, or you start to doubt your own otherwise rational and sound mind, speak with a professional about the dynamics of your relationship.
“You’re acting like my crazy ex”
Comparison is a tactic that many, many abusers use. This can involve making you believe that most other people don’t behave like you, that most other women would be happy in your shoes, or that most other men wouldn’t mind their wife staying out a bit later than normal.
With this type of mental and emotional abuse, it’s not about telling you that you’re overreacting, or that your view of life is skewed. It’s about making comparisons to other people who are different from you, either because they are better and you need to be more like them, or because you’re just as bad as they are. The aim is to make you believe that you’re not enough, just as you are.
Gaslighting is subtle and can be perpetrated anywhere and within any type of relationship. It’s extremely hard see and pinpoint if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If you raise the topic for open discussion with the person you believe is gaslighting you and they dismiss it, perhaps even using one of the above examples, it’s probably best to examine your relationship.